Bengals wary of wily Rodgers

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor has never coached Aaron Rodgers, but over the course of his career he’s watched more film of the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback than the one he drafted No. 1 overall last year.

Preparing for Rodgers requires extra film study. Rodgers was the league’s MVP last year, and it’s not just his throwing arm that causes problems for opponents.

As the Bengals (3-1) prepare to face Rodgers and the Packers (3-1) on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, they also are wary of the veteran quarterback’s ability to lure defenses into penalties or other mistakes leading to free plays. That makes Taylor’s job more difficult, too, as Mike Tomlin displayed when he had to call a timeout Sunday in the Steelers’ game against the Packers as Rodgers quickly got the offense to the line for the next play while defensive personnel were switching.

“It’s hard to find people better at that kind of situational stuff,” Taylor said of Rodgers. “There are a lot of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet that he does situationally that are just tremendous that you use to teach quarterbacks. Over the 10 years I’ve coached quarterbacks there are so many situational clips of Aaron Rodgers that I’ve used. I think the one from Sunday is a great example. Tomlin saw it coming, knew they were going to get caught with 12. If they’re not unimpeded to the quarterback they’re going to get a free play there to take a shot and he’s scored many touchdowns in his career off free plays with 12 guys on the field. So, we’ve got to be on top of that.

“We’ve got to be smart with our substitutions, because he stares your sideline down as he’s listening to the play and tries to get you with 12 guys. Our quarterback is pretty danged good at that too. That’s a step he’s taken as well, but Aaron Rodgers is really good at it.”

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow drew comparisons to Rodgers this summer when practice squad defensive tackle Mike Daniels, a former teammate of Rodgers in Green Bay, went on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football and called Burrow “like a baby Aaron.”

The comparison is uncanny now looking at both of their first 14 games. Burrow missed the final six games last year and is heading into Game 15 of his NFL career with a 5-8-1 record, 66.9 percent completion rate, 3,676 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 94.8 quarterback rating. Rodgers was 5-9 with a 63.5 percent completion rate, 3,470 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 91.8 rating through his first 14 games.

“You don’t see many rookies step into the locker room and you would think he’s like a four-year vet if you didn’t know who he was, and to have that at the quarterback position, that means he has the right type of savvy, the right type of poise that you only see from guys like Aaron,” Daniels said of Burrow’s rookie year. “I’ve been saying this since I got there [Cincinnati]. I see a lot of similarities between the two and I’m just excited to be a part of that, man. The kids got a lot to him, he’s got a lot of upside—he’s only going to get better and you talk to Who Dey Nation and they’re going to let you know: Joe Burrow is the savior, man. He really is to this organization.”

Burrow said Wednesday he never watched Rodgers thinking how he could emulate his game, but he prefers not to put himself up against other quarterbacks in general. Rodgers’ pedigree speaks for itself.

“I do enjoy watching people who are really good at what they do, and obviously he’s been one of the best, if not the best, for a long time,” said Burrow, who should get back from injury this week one of his favorite targets in wide receiver Tee Higgins. “... He’s just always in control. He doesn’t let defenses play the way they should. He takes advantage of a lot of different things that you show. You can’t just leave a guy uncovered against Aaron Rodgers.”

Rodgers and Burrow haven’t put up the flashiest of numbers this season but they are again similar, as both lead passing games that rank 23rd (Bengals) and 24th (Packers). And, both have shown capable of more – Burrow in a smaller window of time and Rodgers over a decorated 16-year career that has included nine Pro Bowl nods.

Defensive tackle D.J. Reader said there is not necessarily a shock value to facing Rodgers, but there is no doubt he is a special player.

“You know what he can do with the ball in his hands,” Reader said. “You know how dangerous he is. There’s always that heightened sense of timing in your head. I think that’s more so what it is. It’s not, ‘Oh man, we’re playing against Aaron Rodgers.’ He’s special. He’s arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. But he’s going to do what he does and we have to do our job getting after him.”

And what does Reader think of Burrow?

“We know how good Joe is,” Reader said. “… We know what Joe is made of. It’s exciting for us to watch the world see what Joe is made of. You’re not over there on third down waiting to grab your helmet. You’re sitting there waiting on him to make a play. That’s exciting as a defensive player knowing that you have somebody with the ball in their hands that can do something like that.”


Packers at Bengals, 1 p.m., Fox, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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